“Make up your mind,” Moab says. “Render a decision. Make your shadow like night – at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.”
(a morning glory found deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)
Both Lucy Lipiner and Gerda Weissmann Klein have a tale to tell. . .
Each woman weaves a story steeped in the sweet innocence of childhood which is suddenly and unimaginably lost in the midst of unspeakable horrors. . .yet thankfully theirs is a tale of eventual survival and of small yet victorious triumphs.
There are a few differences between these two woman of which create two very individual stories. . .
Differences such as their age and the fact that they were each born in different small towns.
Yet it is to the similarities between them that inextricably binds them together for all of eternity.
I am pretty certain that these woman do not personally know one another nor have they ever met, but I somehow think that in many ways they have known one another very well for a very long time as they have both survived the unimaginable stemming from the same wicked source. . .
Each woman was born in Poland and each woman was born into a Jewish family.
Whoever would have imagined that those two seemingly insignificant factors would mark these women for the rest of their lives by placing them in the valley of the shadow of Death. Had they been born say, in America or Canada, or England, their stories would certainly have been less then memorable. Lives lived as mostly anyone else’s.
But because they were born in a country lying in the path of a very hungry and vicious animal, tragedy was to be their lot.
I have finished reading Lucy’s tale and have now begun Gerda’s equally gripping story.
As I waited in the dentist office yesterday, reading until I was called back, I had tears flooding my eyes as I read the story of an individual family, like my own family or anyone’s family, being ripped apart as they stood by helpless to prevent the rupture.
Despite the fact that these two lady’s stories took place over 70 years ago, I have been struck by the similarities of the worldwide current plights now littering our news.
Each was a young girl when The War broke out–when Germany marched forth seizing Poland as its own.
Each girl came from a prominent family within their respective towns. They were loved, nurtured and happy living their lives as innocent children.
I think it is Lucy’s story that I have found to be most relevant to any story I might read in today’s paper—that of any number of families fleeing Syria or Egypt or Turkey or Somalia or Tunisia, or Eritrea, etc.— each seeking refuge from the unspeakable horrors of the upheaval of what was an average life.
Lucy’s family was on the run for almost 10 years. Starting when she was 6 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939– they became just another statistic of families in the throng of the displaced as they sought refuge in the Soviet Union and later Tajikistan then briefly back to Poland and ironically to Germany and eventually to the US.
There was death, violence, sexual abuse, grave hunger, incapacitating illness, loss, sorrow, separation and near madness.
They had been a family like any other family–they had a nice home, nice clothes, nice jewelry. They went to Temple. They enjoyed their extended family. They attended school. They had jobs. They played music as they lived, loved and laughed—-
Suddenly life took a turn beyond their control and they lost everything–they became hunted, like animals. They were reduced to wearing clothes turned to rags as there was no longer choice. They lost weight. They were hungry. They were infested with bugs, inside and out. They ate rotten trash and drank fetid water to quell an endless hunger. They were dirty, they smelled. They were sick both physically, spiritually and mentally.
They were shells of human beings.
Miraculously the family remained intact but it came at a tremendous cost to each member of the family. They survived in part due the kindness of those strangers and individuals encountered along the long and arduous journey who were willing to offer aid, shelter and comfort, as meager as it was. . .to dirty and seemingly unsavory subhuman individuals who were considered enemies of every state simply for being Jewish.
Yesterday’s news ran a story about the discovery of a lorry, or tractor trailer, abandoned on a road in Austria containing at least 70 dead bodies of migrants, or refugees, who were on what they thought to be a journey to freedom.
Today there was the story of another capsized ship losing possibly 500 individuals–men, women and children drowning while on their way to freedom.
There have been the stories of the Chunnel being overrun and shut down, day after day, by the thousands of migrants in Calais seeking asylum and freedom.
There was the story of an arson attack on a migrant shelter in Germany, as Angela Merkel was booed by those Germans not wanting to see Germany overrun by the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safe haven.
It is said that the current influx of migrants from both Africa and the Middle East is the largest exodus of people since World War II.
A humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.
The worry– how will the small European Nations absorb the millions of people running away from tyranny, abuse and horror. . .how will they be able to provide for all of these “other” people as they continue providing for their own. . .?
These refugees are different–culturally, religiously and ethnically.
Later I read a story about the marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The story told the tale of how one group of New Orleans citizens did not want the “other” New Orleans citizens, those who were the evacuees coming from the more disadvantaged areas, to cross the bridge bringing them into the more affluent neighborhoods.
These citizens were afraid of being overrun with what was thought to be unsavory individuals bringing with them drugs, crime and violence—those citizens coming from the areas which were known to be rife with such—
And I suppose some of those feelings may have been justified after we heard the stories of the rapes and murders taking place within the Superdome when it was opened to those evacuating the lower 9th ward.
Is it fear that keeps us weary, holding our arms outward not as arms offering a welcoming embrace but rather as arms pushing away and repelling those who come seeking aid and assistance?
How can we take on an endless sea of people in need–economically absorbing the astronomical costs for healthcare, housing, education, employment and assimilation?
What of the hidden terrorists among the masses?
Are we not told to be hospitable and welcoming–offering sustenance and aid to our fellow human beings who are in desperate need?
Would we not want someone to do the same for us?
One country closes its borders.
Is that fair to the other surrounding countries?
How do we feed them all?
Where will they stay?
What of those who are criminals?
What of the illness and disease they bring with them?
What of the myriad of language barriers?
What will happen to our own way of life when it yields to the incoming masses?
Do we lose ourselves, our identity, while giving of ourselves to the “other?”
I don’t know the answers to these hard questions and I don’t think the rest of the world knows the answers either–
yet I simply keep hearing these words. . .
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40
Lusia’s Long Journey Home
A young Girls’ Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust
by Lucy Lipiner
All But My Life
by Gerda Weissmann Klein
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging and commented:
An incredible post providing perspective and a reminder, there is still work to be done for the Kingdom and glory of God. Julie, thank you so much!!
I appreciate your reblogging this story as this seems to truly be an epic global crisis that calls upon all of us to offer our hearts
You’re very welcome Julie and I agree.
Oh yes, Julie, we are the keepers of our brothers and sisters – of every human being. As we come close to an election in Canada, my question to the candidates is not whether the government of Canada will protect us but how will the government of Canada respond to those in our world who are most in need. Our Canadian government has cut back on a great deal in recent years and I pray that this trend will reverse. It is to our shame if we do not help our fellow human beings. Thank you so much for this post!
This global migration as it were is really something Lynda–overwhelming as each government and country seems to be at a loss—good luck with the election—ours is certainly building to its usual farce of foolery—happy weekend—Julie
Julie this was just wonderful. We so lose sight of the things you have said here, and we do it much to the detriment of the exact thing we are striving to accomplish, and that would be the advancing of the Kingdom of God and spreading the glorious Gospel. So many crises face us in our own nation, and frankly we sometimes deal with them with little or no compassion. Thanks for this great reminder.
You know Wally these “reminders” are as much for me as they are for others as I need to constantly pull myself back to what really matters. . .
I hear that all of the time, Julie, and have said it myself. These writings are often first and foremost, lessons to the author!
Amen to that Wally 🙂
A powerful post! Thank you for speaking up for the displaced while being sensitive to the concerns people have. Lovingly giving or doing what we can is the key.
Thank you Nicodemas—I tend to write about what I need to keep focused on as a Christian and global citizen!
Wishes for a blessing filled weekend –Julie
Blessings to you.
Great post, Julie. And you’re right there are a myriad of reasons to be frightened in this world we live in. All any of us can do is to pray and do as much as we can in our sphere of influence to bring about change (which you do brilliantly I might add)! There was nothing those women could have done to change what was happening to them either. The Bible tells us over and over again to fear not for He is with us, and we have to believe that. As Christians, even if the worst comes upon us we know into whose arms we’ll end up. So I guess our greatest concern must be trying to spread the gospel as often as we can, and again you are doing your best with your stellar posts to reach out to people who may not know the Lord or even to those who do or did and have lost their faith. I and everyone else who reads your posts are blessed to know you and to be shored up by your deep faith. It’s not a perfect world, never has been, never will be, but that’s not what we are promised. We are just asked to keep the faith, trust the Lord, and take it one day, one hour, one minute at a time. And baby, I’m right behind you every step of the way! Love and huge hugs. The Lord loves you dearly and so do I. 🙂 ❤
Julie – have a look at this Youtube. Brings it a little closer to home. But as you say – so many hard questions and so few answers.
WOW–very powerful and sobering David–that needs to run as a commercial here instead of all the stupid nonsense we have–it is such a fine line we walk. . .
Brilliantly written, Dear Julie. It is utterly heartbreaking to see that history continues to repeat itself and the global tyrants continue to lure a following to their dehumanizing/murderous causes. As I head to Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and Greece next month — I go knowing how fortunate and blessed I am and will do whatever I can to help those in need. It is truly overwhelming and tragic. Thank you for sharing your beautiful reflection on all of this. Love & Hugs
Thank you Shauna—-this world of ours is indeed in a mess in so many different stages — so many convoluted twists and turns—there’s a fine line that we can’t seem to find—I wish you safe travels on your upcoming journey and pray that you will find a small way to bring comfort to others. . .
On another note—I read your post today. I read it earlier this afternoon but didn’t want to reply before digesting your story properly.
Life takes us on so many different jaunts along a myriad of pig-trails. . .thank God for being able to put distance between ourselves and our past youthful lives—when I was in the classroom, with my high school kids, so many of my own past failures, pains, stupidity and mistakes became my advice to them, as they would be sitting across from me in my office in tears confessing or with my prying out a tale of regrettably woe–it was a realness offered as to who I was and a genuineness to the concern I had in their lives and choices— just as you have done today–offering a piece of yourself to someone else who may be hurting just as you hurt all those many years ago—You took a risk in sharing it–you offered to any and all, with a deep sincere honesty, of which will certainly touch a need in someone who God brings your way.
It always takes a bit of courage in sharing ourselves with others—
I am thankful that you have been given the Grace to offer other a small piece of yourself–which will in turn become a blessing to someone else–
Hugs to you Shauna—and as I said before–safe journey my friend.
I take off for Ireland in about 2 weeks—excited for a new adventure 🙂
My grandmother came from Germany as a Catholic teenager and was ashamed of Hitler and the gas chambers. She learned English and encouraged my Mom to learn other languages such as Spanish. She met my Grandpa on a street corner in New York City. I have read m as my books especially liking “Diary of Anne Frank.” 🙂
They are powerful stories of resilience and perseverance during unimaginable horror–and as Anne Frank reminds us—there is still good even in all of the bad. . .
Blessing for a beautiful day–Julie